Patrons of certain local businesses last weekend may have witnessed something unusual: several bright lights covered by umbrellas, an imposing video camera on an industrial tripod, a man holding a microphone on a pole, and several people seemingly milling around before all turning to watch two men walk around and converse with each other.
I was privileged to spend most of Saturday, January 21, on the set of “The Gift,” a Brand New Gay Productions film written and directed by our very own Travis Myles. “The Gift” is Travis’ first movie: a short film (approximately thirty minutes long) which tells the story of Alan who, with the help of his best friend Bill, is trying to find the perfect Christmas present for his partner, James, whose gifts are always so amazing that Alan feels inadequate by comparison.
I arrived at Work the Metal (a home furnishings and gift shop in the Butchertown Market on Story Avenue) at around 10:00 Saturday morning to find the cast and crew setting up a scene. Everybody looked quite focused upon the task, despite having worked for twelve hours on Friday before getting up early today to start shooting at 7:00. I met Production Assistants Jessica Collier and Kenisha Thompson and promised to stay out of the way to observe.
The scene being shot was one of several which featured Alan and Bill looking for a gift. After wrapping the shot, we moved to Cellar Door Chocolates, also in the Butchertown Market, for another brief scene. While the crew set up the lights and the camera, I took a moment to speak to the two actors.
Chuck Beatty, who is also an Executive Producer, plays the character of Bill. Chuck had met Travis at an LGBT Film Festival and Travis approached him with his screenplay. Chuck was originally cast as Alan, but when they held auditions for the other parts, he found someone he thought would do better: Douglas Scott Sorenson. When he saw Douglas audition, he said, “That’s Alan.”
Thus, Douglas became Alan, while Chuck took the part of Bill. Both have extensive acting experience: Chuck has been working in the theater for ten years, while Douglas worked in both theater and film in New York for sixteen years. Douglas moved to Louisville with his partner, and now acts in commercials and in productions by Actor’s Theater.
Meanwhile, the scene setup was hitting some snags, namely with sound. The scene takes place in a bit of a tight spot; finding a convenient yet inconspicuous place for the microphone proved difficult, and a coffee machine was making an incessant hissing noise which couldn’t be turned off. They tried having one of the crew members act as an extra browsing the shelves of chocolates while holding the concealed microphone, but that didn’t seem to work. Eventually they hooked the microphone back up to the pole and found a workable place for it, and the scene was shot.
I noticed an interesting line of dialogue in which the name “Cellar Door Chocolates” was dropped. In addition, a small sign with the shop’s name was in the shot. I asked Jessica whether this amounted to a sort of product placement, and she affirmed that it was deliberate. “We’re just trying to keep it local,” she said, citing how Louisvillians love their local businesses. “They’ve been very generous.” It is a way to thank the businesses for letting the film crew invade their space for an hour or two.